People have asked why I decided to write about my life with Lina, my transgender wife. My answer is simple: Because I can.
I’ve written about my personal life for decades, so that part is nothing new. But this time the topic happens to be something that is still taboo, frowned upon, sometimes shocking, so that puts it in a different realm. I guess that’s where the “because I can” comes in.
Not everyone has the personality to share his or her personal life in the public eye. I suppose more people than ever do, what with reality TV and all, but of course there’s very little real about reality TV. I think to share authentic feelings is not so common. But some people can do it. For whatever reason, I’m one of those people. I could say it takes courage, fortitude, stamina, whatever. I suppose it does. Courage comes in many forms. I’m a chicken in so many ways, but somehow I am usually (not always) brave when it comes to talking about things.
I believe sharing personal stories is a kind of gift to the world. I’ve seen it enough times in my journalism, where I’m merely the conduit of others’ stories, and in my own reading of people’s stories. So, yes, while writing about my relationship and what Lina has gone through helps me process and gain insight, my experiences can inform and inspire others just as theirs have done for me. The first thing I did when Wessel told me about Lina was to look for transgender books. I wanted not only medical and psychological information but also to hear from people with personal experience, especially spouses. So I’m paying it forward.
Finally, I’m lucky enough to have access and sometimes a built-in audience having worked at several newspapers and also knowing how to structure an essay – not that I’m always successful. As I tell writing students, no matter how fascinating a story is, it must be presented in an interesting container to attract readers.
Circling back to bravery, what I haven’t done yet is write a transgender article for my hometown paper. I plan to, if they’ll work with me the way I want to be worked with, but that will be the scariest of all. Among those readers are our neighbors, colleagues, a long list of service people. Some are even my former school mates (David Sedaris among them, but I think he’ll be OK with the news).
And, finally, there’s my email address, which is attached to my website bydianedaniel.com. Around the time the Globe and Times stories came out, I decided to put something on my homepage about transgender topics with a link to this blog. That’s about as in-your-face as I can get, and, yes, it’s scary. It’s a little bit of activism/advocacy with each email I send out. I think it’s responsible for losing one professional contact, a regional magazine. I hope it doesn’t result in other lost work, but, again, “because I can,” for now, I will.
Still, I pick my times of advocacy. I have an apartment I rent out and while looking for a new renter recently I used a different email address that’s not as easily traceable. We all draw our lines in the sand.